She may not be a household name, but for thousands of screaming teens and tweens at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Rachel Platten is a musical goddess.
Barely more than a year ago, Platten was a virtual unknown, one in a million struggling singer-songwriters, traveling the country hoping for a break. As it turns out, tapping into that struggle led to Platten writing what would prove to be her breakout hit, “Fight Song,” which catapulted her overnight from indie singer to platinum-selling artist.
“Fight Song” became the anthem of the summer of 2015 for millions of young girls who found fuel in the empowering lyrics, and Platten brought that energy to the stage at Darien Lake during a 60-minute set that was part of the theme park’s free summer concert series.
Dressed in a midriff-baring gray T-shirt and black shorts, her hair in a bun, Platten set the tone for the evening, opening up with a powerful rendition of “Beating Me Up,” a song carrying – as most of her songs do – a strong message of overcoming obstacles, fighting back, never giving up and believing in yourself.
Those might sound like tired clichés to hardened, cynical adults, but to the (mostly) young teen girls in the audience, it was the first of many songs from her 13-song set that lit up their eyes and their smiles and had them rocking out.
Platten’s newfound fame shows through in her stage show. She looks less like a professional performer and more like a girl having the time of her life at a karaoke bar with her girlfriends. But make no mistake – she is far from a karaoke singer and equally far from the one-hit wonder label a track like “Fight Song” and it’s 185 million You Tube views could saddle you with.
After a soulful rendition of “Lonely Planet,” her third song of the evening, she shyly introduced herself to the crowd, saying simply, “Hi, I’m Rachel Platten.” If her Darien effort was any indication, she no longer needs an introduction.
Her lack of a polished stage presence is refreshing and her stories come across as warm and heartfelt. “Better Place,” a tale about the difference love makes, is a sweet song. But when Platten shares the story of writing it for her sister, who had just found love, and then singing it for her recently as the first dance of her wedding reception, it takes it to another level.
Likewise with “Congratulations,” an edgy anthem Platten says she wrote after coming out on the wrong end of a long-running fight with a good friend.
Each song, and the folksy way she told the backstory, seemed to endear her even more to her fans – if that was possible.
Backed by a three-piece band, Platten packed a ton of heart, soul and gratitude into her hour on stage.
Whether going back to her indie roots with “1,000 Ships,” or covering Justin Bieber’s No. 1 hit, “Love Yourself,” Platten showed impressive vocal range, and a passion that comes, in part, when you’ve written your own music.
The buzz was building in the audience, in anticipation of her mega-hit. And though she made her “Plattenums” – as her die-hard fans call themselves – wait until the 13th and final song of the night, she did indeed close with “Fight Song.”
It was a goosebumps-inducing moment to watch someone who scratched her way to the top, sing her heart out on the song that finally got her there. She was joined by thousands of fans on the chorus, singing, swaying and serenading a singer who has all the makings of this generation’s Alanis Morissette.